Amy chats to Josh St. Clair who is currently starring as Gino Bartali in Glory Ride, a brand new musical now on at Charing Cross Theatre.
Hi Josh, how was opening night?
Honestly, just so much fun. It just felt like such a monumental moment for all of us involved as we had been building the show for the past five weeks and so to get it over the finish line, pardon the pun, and in front of an audience just felt really special.
What can audiences expect from Glory Ride? What are the main themes and messages?
Very simply, I think audiences can expect a great night out all whilst experiencing a beautiful true story. Some of the content within the show is quite heavy. We’re dealing with a devastating part of History, a time of War and great violence, but equally we have tried not to ever let the harrowing elements of the piece takeover entirely and also allow space for lighter, more comical moments within the show to try balance that out. There’s some really appealing themes within the show such as resistance, friendship and religion, plus some darker ones such as grief, loss and how that affects parent relationships, but for me the overriding theme is the good within people. What is evident about Gino‘s character and who he interacts with is that when faced with seemingly impossible situations, some of which are literally life or death, the characters ultimately choose to do what is good and what is right, even if it goes against what they may themselves believe, and so within that there lies the true good of humanity.
You play Gino Bartali, who was he and what attracted you to the role?
Gino Bartali was an Italian professional cyclist who twice won the Tour de France, which is probably known as the biggest cycling event in the world. After he died in 2000, it all came to light that he had secretly been part of the Italian resistance, helping minorities and affected groups, escape and hide from the fascist regime during World War II. The main attraction to the role was honestly just the story. I actually felt almost guilty for not knowing about it before because it’s so unbelievable. Also as an actor, having left Frozen last year, I was finding myself in a headspace where I really wanted to get creative, and so with this being a new show, I knew I would have the opportunity to be involved in the making of something.
Is there an added pressure when playing a real person vs playing a fictional character?
I never necessarily saw it as a pressure, telling Gino’s story if anything is a privilege, but I absolutely wanted to do his story justice. When we look at the risks he took and sacrifices he made, when we were putting this on stage, I never once took it lightly. I also think not being a native Italian myself, I really put in the work to make sure I knew who Gino was, a lot of reading about his background, his growing up, his sporting career, his family. And also that my Italian accent was somewhat passable!
How does it feel to be starring in a brand-new musical? Does this change your approach to the role?
I just feel really lucky. As I touched on before, to be in a room where I got to have fun creating something was incredibly rewarding. The rehearsal space was a place of co-creation between the cast, the writers, our beautiful Director Kelly Devine, our heroic Musical Director Dave Rose, everyone had a voice in that space, nobody’s ideas were more important than anyone else’s. Of course, some ideas could end up just being wrong or not working, but unless you explore it how can you know? So to be listened to, and for my artistry to be respected, has honestly been really special. Coming from a career where I have mainly done large scale musicals such as Wicked, Kinky Boots and Frozen, this was a different approach in the sense that it required a different skill set. Those amazing shows which have been running for many years, when I joined already had their set script, songs and staging whereas this was ever-changing. There would be slight tweaks to the script every day, or sometimes an entirely new song would come about if the creative team felt something wasn’t working or needed to be stronger. So it definitely kept me on my toes, but equally I found myself thriving in that space as the creativity I got to to use and permission that I had to play was ultimately really fulfilling.
Tell us about the music in the show, and what your favourite musical number is.
The music, I would describe as a modern pop-rock musical with some Italian influences. Huge shoutout to Jen Green, our Orchestrator, alongside Dave, who have collaborated and really worked wonders in trying to keep the score sounding in parts authentically Italian, but also giving you that added element of excitement you seek in a new musical whilst being grounded in a tension and a danger that the show needs. And what I must say, is that our cast are both beautiful storytellers and really wonderful vocalists. I think there is many standout moments musically in the show. Shout out to my girl Amy Di Bartolomeo, who whenever opens her mouth, we all just kind of sit there in stunned silence. I’ve got to say for me, vocally, this show is kind of baptism by fire as in the 15 minutes of the show or the ‘Prologue’ as I like to call it, from where we first meet Gino to watching him become a Tour de France champion, I literally don’t stop singing. It’s honestly a lot of fun. Intense though! If I was pushed to pick a favourite song I sing, the Look Ahead Reprise at the top of Act Two probably takes it. Intense, dark, risky, high-stakes, all whilst belting on a bike! What more do you want?
And finally, why should people book tickets to Glory Ride?
People should book to see Glory Ride because it’s a remarkable true story, and is opening many eyes up to the legacy of a man who should be celebrated, for more than just his sporting achievements.
ABOUT THE SHOW
Glory Ride is on at Charing Cross Theatre until the 29th of July.